Heather Brown knows it’s not enough to simply speak about the importance of student-teacher connections in the classroom. Educators must create the time and space during the school week for those relationships to form.
“It truly is about the relationships with the kids, and you can tell what is important to a school by the amount of time that they set aside specifically for that intention,” said Brown, the assistant principal at Royal Spring Middle School in Georgetown, Kentucky. “It’s one thing to say that you have a mentor, but it’s entirely different to set an intentional amount of time that you’re going to actually work with those kids.”
Brown’s focus on connection-building at her Summit Learning partner school is shared by educators across the country as they prepare for the start of the 2022-23 school year. Many are thinking outside the realm of academics, grades, and lesson plans to prioritize ways to get to know their students on a personal level.
In a recent national survey on The Power of Mentoring, a majority of teachers (88%) strongly believe that their one-on-one mentoring time provides value to their students. The teachers note that they see positive changes in their students’ attitudes about their education, their behavior, and their academic performance as a result of mentoring.
“You see them as individuals, and understand their struggles, concerns, and their excitement,” said Martha De Leon, a fourth-grade teacher at Williams Elementary School in Pasadena, Texas. “They all have different personalities and different ways to express their feelings.”
According to MENTOR, a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen and expand mentoring opportunities, mentored students are 55% less likely to skip school, 78% more likely to volunteer in their communities, and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.
To ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, many teachers are starting off the school year with teacher-student connections at the top of the to-do list.
“Back to school is an excellent opportunity to anchor on the importance of student-centered learning,” said Monica Milligan, Chief Program Officer of Gradient Learning. “As we return to the classroom, educators must make time to know their students more deeply and equip them to give each student exactly what they need to thrive.
“At Gradient Learning, our mission is to reimagine education together with educators. We do this through our two offerings – Summit Learning and Along. By creating an environment of belonging and connection for students through mentoring or other one-on-one connections, both students and adults can engage and thrive.”